The changing climate is having a marked effect on forests in this country. In particular, trees along the U.S. eastern seaboard are changing their range as they slowly seek to escape rising temperatures.
Genetically modified crops have been at the center of a great deal of controversy for a number of years. There have been widespread fears that they are unsafe to eat. Continuing studies have indicated that those fears appear to be unsubstantiated.
There has been lots of discussion about the decline in bee populations and its dire consequences for agriculture. We have also talked about the efforts to save the monarch butterfly, whose numbers have been dropping dramatically over the years. But the rest of the insect world does not get much attention. For the most part, we think of insects as a nuisance or as potential pests.
Each year, more than 25 million shipping containers enter the U.S. All too often, highly destructive forest pests are lurking among their imported goods. Wood boring insects arrive as stowaways in wood packaging, such as pallets and crates. Other forest pests and pathogens hitchhike in on foreign-reared plants bound for American nurseries.
When it comes to addressing infectious disease, we have a short attention span. Forces are mobilized when we’ve crossed a tipping point, and demobilized when the immediate threat has passed. In the case of Zika, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency based on a strong association between Zika infection and microcephaly in newborns and a spike in Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The sugar maple, one of the most economically and ecologically important trees in the eastern United States and Canada, is showing signs of being in decline, according to scientists at SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Harvard Forest.
Climate change is threatening crops all around the world, but maybe none more so than coffee. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “higher temperatures, long droughts punctuated by intense rainfall, more resilient pests and plant diseases—all of which are associated with climate change—have reduced coffee supplies dramatically in recent years.”
In recent decades, the so-called hygiene hypothesis has been proposed to explain the rapid rise in allergic diseases during the 20th century and has even been linked to a broader range of chronic illnesses. The basic idea is that that when exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses is limited early in life, children face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.